Made invisible by my helmet, I arrived at Persephone’s Doom. It was about an hour until sunrise. The sight of Aphrodite and Adonis together in the middle of the meadow confirmed my hunch. At least Apollo hadn’t come like I’d feared he would. Or maybe he’d already come and gone. Or maybe he was somewhere, hidden, standing guard but ignoring the show in center ring.
Nope. Apollo arrived on the scene several minutes after I did. His bow was in hand and a full quiver was on his back. He materialized in the open, unhidden. But Adonis and Aphrodite still didn’t notice him until he asked in a loud, clear voice, “How long has this been going on?”
“Just tonight,” Adonis said with a nervous glance at Apollo’s weaponry as he clumsily wrapped his chiton around his waist. Aphrodite had already snapped her dress back on. “I didn’t sleep with her while I was with you, honest. But this is the last I’m going to see of her until next spring. Can you blame me? I’m sorry. I wish I could pick one of you, but I told you, I just can’t. I love you both.”
“Did he tell you he and I were together earlier tonight?” Apollo asked Aphrodite.
“Of course he did,” said Aphrodite. “He could tell me because I’m not some uptight, delusional prude.”
“You were thinking of her the whole time you were with me, weren’t you?” Apollo said to Adonis.
“Sometimes I think of you when I’m with her,” said Adonis.
“Save it,” said Apollo. “I can’t care anymore. Let’s just get back to Helicon before something happens.”
“Was it night in your vision?” asked Adonis.
“No, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to sit around and wait for the sun to come up,” said Apollo.
“And it doesn’t mean there’s any reason to leave before the sun comes up,” Adonis stood firm.
Apollo said nothing, but in a few seconds, Calliope appeared beside him.
“Have all of you lost your minds?” Calliope demanded.
“Thank you,” said Apollo. “Some of us not only thought it was a good idea to come here, but intend to tempt fate by staying until sunrise. I summoned you because I need another voice of reason.”
“You’re calling yourself a voice of reason?” said Calliope. “Have you noticed that you’re here?”
“I came here because I was afraid he would,” said Apollo. “I had to try to bring him home, or at least guard him.”
“But you’re here,” Calliope repeated. “And you called me here. We were both here in your vision.”
“But I don’t know that I was there when Adonis was actually killed,” said Apollo. “I might have been summoned right after it happened. Maybe I’m here early and I can stop it now.”
“This kind of thinking never works,” said Calliope. “Any time you’ve tried to stop your visions from coming true, you’ve just ended up causing the events in them.”
“So what are you suggesting?” Apollo argued. “That we sit back and let fate run its course? That we just let Adonis die if there’s the slightest, most infinitesimal chance that it’s in our power to prevent it? Can you honestly tell me that, if I’d foreseen your son’s death, you wouldn’t have begged me to do then exactly what I’m doing now?”
“Honestly, I don’t know,” said Calliope.
“Are you serious?” said Apollo. “You went to the Underworld and tried to storm Charon’s ferry while Orpheus’ soul was on it. It was a good thing he’d already drunk the waters of Lethe so he didn’t know who you were and why you were screaming after the ferry, struggling to break free from your mother’s grip.”
“Stop right there,” Calliope warned.
“Your mother finally had to sedate you because she couldn’t hold you back any more,” Apollo reminded her. “Can you look me in the eye and tell me that you had no desire to challenge fate that day?”
“Orpheus was my son,” said Calliope. “Adonis is your lover. Whom you’ve known for six weeks and been with for less than one. I met Oegrus when he was twenty years old, and I was with him for the rest of his life. In all these centuries, I have never loved anyone else the way I loved him. But as heartbreaking as his death was and still is to me, I had a peace about letting him go because I knew it was his time.”
“An old man’s body expired, as human bodies do, and you let him leave it for a well-deserved eternal rest,” said Apollo. “I’m trying to stop a young demigod from being murdered. So, yes, I think Orpheus is the appropriate comparison.”
“Once again, everyone’s arguing about what they think I should do and what they think is best for me,” Adonis protested. “What’s the point of preserving my life if it’s never going to be my life? I wanted one first night with you,” he said to Apollo, “and I wanted one last night with you,” he said to Aphrodite, “and whether this is my last day on earth for the summer or forever, I don’t want to spend it locked up in the Museum, hiding from whoever may or may not want to kill me.”
“You wouldn’t be so flippant about this if you’d ever seen anyone die,” said Apollo.
The argument kept going on and on in these circles as I watched in invisible silence. All the while, I wondered if I was the only one who noticed that the moon had disappeared and the colors of sunrise were spreading across the horizon.
Then, as though he’d collaborated with Helios, Ares appeared in the meadow, silhouetted against the backlight of the rising sun.
“What’s up?” he greeted the four of them. “You know, I hate it when people throw an orgy and don’t invite me.”
Aphrodite and Apollo both blocked Adonis. “Go, now, please,” Apollo begged Adonis in a whisper. “Just go.”
“This party had a very exclusive guest list,” Aphrodite answered Ares. “Sorry you didn’t make the cut.”
“Sis was right. He is the reason you’ve been turning me down all summer, isn’t he?” Ares accused. “Look, I never cared about Featherfoot, or the tranny, or the crip you married, because I always knew you’d come back to me, and I knew that none of them could do it for you the way I could. That’s why you never turn me down for them, right? When I want you, they have to wait in line. Well, this one’s going to have to learn to get in line, too. No woman turns down the God of War for a goddamn fag.”
“No man tells the Goddess of Love who she’s going to love and when she’s going to love him,” said Aphrodite. “But I can see why you’d be jealous. You can only dream of being half the man Adonis is. And when men have gotten it from him, they actually wanted it.”
“Not helping a damn thing,” Apollo warned her in a whisper.
“Everyone, please calm down,” said Calliope. “Ares, he’s leaving tonight, okay? He’s going back to Hades, and then Aphrodite will be all yours again if she still wants you, which she probably will. Your being a violent, ignorant brute has never turned her off before.”
“What in Tartarus does any of this have to do with you?” Ares shot back. Instinctively, I went to Calliope, ready to shove her out of Ares’ line of fire with my invisible body if need be.
“He’s right,” said Adonis. Aphrodite and Apollo tried to keep him back, but he strode forward undaunted. “This is between him and me. Let’s settle this like men.”
“No!” Aphrodite screamed. “No! Do not settle this like men! Settle it like women. Bitch about each other’s clothes, hair, and stupid ugly faces, and don’t speak to each other for at least a month.”
“I’m not going to fight him,” Adonis shrugged her off. “I’m saying we’re two grown men, and we can talk about this like two grown men. Can’t we?” he asked Ares.
“Sure, we’ll have a little talk, man to girl,” Ares sneered. “Why don’t you pour the tea and set out the cookies, bitch?”
“Okay, let me amend that,” said Adonis. “One of us is a grown man and the other is semi-verbal wild boar.”
Ares growled a deep, guttural growl. As he did, his form instantly morphed into what Adonis had called him: a coarse, hulking, ravaging, hideous wild boar. Boar Ares was as tall at the shoulder as normal Ares was. I wondered for half a second whether Ares had made the transformation himself, or Aphrodite or Apollo had transformed him as an ill-advised joke. That half-second was all the time I had to think about anything.
The boar pawed the ground, his hot breath turning to steam in the cool morning air. Before any of us could speak, move, or think, he charged Adonis head on. Adonis shoved Aphrodite out of the way. Apollo blocked Adonis, but Adonis threw him out of the way, too. I was shocked at the force of his throw, which sent Apollo’s bow, quiver, and arrows flying in all directions.
Adonis was poised to run, but he never had a chance. The boar caught him in seconds. White flesh was impaled by grey horn. The boar knocked Adonis to the ground and gored him again. Adonis stopped moving. The boar kept stabbing and rutting until Apollo, having relocated his bow and a few arrows, shot it in a few places that would cause severe pain but little harm. The boar roared in agony and ran into the forest.
Apollo, Aphrodite, and Calliope rushed to Adonis’ body. Persephone and Demeter appeared. I couldn’t believe anyone had had the presence of mind to summon them.
The scene from the Fates’ tapestry was before me in living color. Apollo’s anguish. Aphrodite’s hysterics. Persephone’s outrage. Blood flowing from Adonis’ pale, still body like water from a spring, creating rivers and tributaries, nourishing a host of newly-sprung flowers wherever they flowed.
My blessing had failed.
I knew exactly what Apollo was thinking. His son Asclepius’ cure for death might work. It had worked on Echo. But using it on the Prince of Hades would mean letting said prince’s royal parents know that the cure still existed, and hadn’t been destroyed at Hades’ command. Would Persephone and Hades let the matter go if it meant saving their son, or would they deem it necessary to penalize Asclepius in some way? Maybe even sentencing him to Tartarus after all? For all his love-blindness, I still couldn’t imagine Apollo risking his son to save his lover.
“You let this happen,” Persephone accused. “All of you. I knew I never should have brought him here. I don’t care what any of you say; I am going home to see my son’s soul into the Elysian Fields, and I may never come back, the earth be damned.”
She made a dramatic rending motion with her hands. The earth split open at the very spot where Hades had broke through to carry her to his palace on their wedding day so many centuries ago. She dove into the chasm, leaving Adonis’ corpse. The earth closed behind her once she was inside and out of sight. Demeter disappeared. Clouds gathered over the morning sun. All over the meadow, grass and flowers withered except where Adonis’ blood watered them.
“A lot she cares. She didn’t even take his body,” Aphrodite wept as she clung to it.
“It’s not him anymore,” Calliope said with the empathy of experience. “The real Adonis is on his way down the river Styx to the Elysian Fields. At least his mother is allowed on the barge. She could follow him all the way…” Her voice slowed. I didn’t like the look she was getting. At all. “To the Realm of the Dead.”
“Calliope.” Apparently Apollo didn’t like the look she was getting, either.
Calliope disappeared. Apollo said to Aphrodite, “Let’s take him to Helicon. I’m sure that’s where Calliope went.” The two of them disappeared with Adonis’ corpse. As I prepared to go after them, I felt Apollo summoning me. So I took my helmet off before making the jump.
Sure enough, everyone was at Helicon in the throne room-turned-living room. “I know what you’re thinking,” Apollo was saying to Calliope. “And it’s a terrible idea.”
“It’s Persephone and Hades’ son,” said Calliope. “They won’t go so far as to keep him out of the Realm of the Dead, but maybe they won’t let him drink from Lethe. They’ll want him to know them.”
“I’m lost,” said Aphrodite. “What is she thinking?”
“The water from Lake Mnemosyne is an antidote to the water from Lethe,” I said.
“What does that have to do with anything?” asked Aphrodite.
I couldn’t give Aphrodite an honest answer without telling her things she couldn’t know. See, when Calliope’s septuplet sons the Corybantes were born, the first thing we did was immerse them in Lake Mnemosyne. (They’re immortal. Don’t judge.) An hour later, they emerged from the lake fully grown and carrying the memories of the dead. Including the last memories of Calliope’s firstborn, Orpheus. The Corybantes told Calliope that Orpheus hadn’t been murdered by Dionysus as we’d always thought, but secretly executed by Zeus for discovering “a great secret” of his. For our protection, the Corybantes refused to tell us what the secret was. We hadn’t been able to find out since. Not that any of us had put any great effort into it.
But Apollo and I both knew that Calliope had spotted a way. Adonis was on his way to the Elysian Fields. Calliope could send a small vial of water from Lake Mnemosyne with him, just enough for Orpheus to remember his last hours. I don’t know how Calliope thought Adonis was going to get the information back to her, though I figured she had some idea.
Like I said, though, explaining any of that to Aphrodite was out of the question. So I simply told her, “It doesn’t matter. Because Calliope’s wrong.”
“How am I wrong?” asked Calliope.
“Persephone won’t let Adonis keep his memories,” I said. “Not all of them, anyway. She and Hades might let him remember them, but she won’t want him to remember us. I’ll bet as soon as he hits Lethe, it’ll be like the last six weeks never happened.”
“But with that antidote there’s a chance Adonis could still remember me?” said Aphrodite. “And our baby?”
“In either case, Calliope, how are you going to get the water to him?” Apollo posed. “Or convince him to go through with the next step? Or do any of this without Persephone noticing?”
“I’ll figure it out when I get there,” said Calliope.
“I’m coming with you,” said Aphrodite.
“You can’t,” I reminded her.
“I will,” she insisted. “So what if I couldn’t break the ban for some stupid makeup. This is for love. And I’m the Goddess of Love. When I want something to happen in the name of love, the Fates have to listen. Everyone knows that.”
“It’s worth a try,” Apollo conceded. “I’ll stay and guard the body. Thalia, will you go with them?” he begged.
“Are you kidding?” I replied. “I’ve done everything I could, if I’ve done anything at all. I’m through here. Good luck,” I added to Calliope and Aphrodite. “I hope whatever it is that you’re trying to do works out.” In a flash, I was back at Parnassus.
That might very well have been that…had it not been for Aphrodite’s claim. I couldn’t let her be the only goddess with the power to influence the Fates, now, could I? How could I allow her this victory and take no part in it?
But something Apollo couldn’t know was that I’d be more useful if I were invisible. So I put on my helmet and then went back to Helicon.
Calliope was already gone. Apollo was still inside with Adonis’ corpse. Aphrodite was outside in the rain, kneeling by the Springs, chanting “Love is greater than Death.” After chanting it three times in succession, she closed her eyes. She opened them. “Not again!” she cried. She started chanting again.
I knelt by her and mouthed a silent chant of my own.
Death is constant; Love, erratic
Spells in rhyme are more dramatic
Love and Laughter’s paths are wending
Joined to write a happy ending
Aphrodite closed her eyes again. Again, nothing happened.
I silently mouthed the words, As a citizen of Hades by birth, I formally invite you, Aphrodite, to be a guest in our realm. We both resumed our chants once more. Aphrodite closed her eyes. Once more, nothing happened.
I got an idea.
I waded into the Springs in front of her. She bent down to inspect the ripples in the water. I grabbed her by the arms and dragged her under.
I kept dragging her until she got the hint and started swimming on her own. I kept stride with her, giving her a push or a pull in the right direction every so often.
Then it happened. I pushed her too hard, and she gasped. Coughed. Sputtered. Got a huge mouthful of water. Her seafoam eyes shone with abject horror. She was in a total state of panic. Could this really be her first time getting water in her lungs? That wasn’t possible. As her name indicated, she was an aquatic goddess. For all we knew, she’d lived her whole life in the sea before she came to the shores of Greece. My sisters and I had all had our first drownings when we were babies. It freaks you out the first time, but it doesn’t take long to adapt to the feeling.
There wasn’t time to wait for Aphrodite to adapt. I grabbed her flailing form and dragged her toward the shore of Lake Mnemosyne.
How do you quietly and discreetly shove a flailing, semi-conscious, voluptuous goddess onto a lakeshore? I didn’t have time to figure it out, so I didn’t bother. Aphrodite’s arrival caught Mom’s attention right away, despite Calliope’s best efforts to distract her.
“Aphrodite,” Mom greeted her with a nonchalant glance. “I’ve been expecting you.”
Aphrodite nodded in Mom’s direction and beckoned Calliope with a feeble hand.
“I invited her,” Calliope lied. “She wanted to say goodbye to Adonis. Just one last kiss. We figured since Persephone gets to ride the barge, it’s only fair.”
“That’s reasonable, I suppose,” Mom said. I wasn’t buying the idea that she was buying this. “The barge should be coming by here any minute now.”
Thalia, I heard Mom’s voice in my head, who do you think you’re fooling?
I didn’t reply. I didn’t know for sure that she had detected my presence. She could have just sensed that I’d actually been the one to invite Aphrodite, and was making a guess based on that.
Thalia, Mom said again. Look at me when I’m thinking to you.
Aphrodite swallowed some water, didn’t she? Mom asked.
Has she said anything since?
Then I guess we’ll wait and see, Mom resigned.
Before I had a chance to ask, the barge appeared in visual range, which is pretty short in Hades because of the dim lighting. Adonis was on the barge, sleeping in Persephone’s arms.
“Persephone!” Calliope called as she ran to the barge. “Let me come with you!”
“No,” said Persephone. “When you’re the Queen of Hades, you can ride the Barge. And that’s not a challenge or an invitation.”
“Please, stop the barge and hear me out,” she pleaded.
“Keep going,” Persephone ordered Charon, the ferryman. Charon maintained his slow, steady course.
“Listen to me,” said Calliope. “You are the Queen of Hades. You don’t have to let your son die.”
“Because I’m the Queen of Hades, I have to let my son die,” said Persephone. “What kind of rulers would we be if we made this exception for our son just because we felt like it? He’s already drunk from Lethe like everyone else,” she sighed as she stroked his platinum curls. “He doesn’t know who I am, or why I asked him to call me ‘mother,’ or why I sang him to sleep. We’ll tell him we’re his parents when we visit him in the Elysian Fields, but I don’t know if he’ll ever believe us.”
“That’s still more than I was allowed, and more than I am allowed, for my son,” said Calliope. “If even this gets out, how do you think the other gods with dead children will react?”
At this point, I decided to try my luck sneaking onto the barge. I had no idea what I’d do once I was there, but if nothing else, it seemed like a good vantage point. I floated to the vessel and quietly climbed up the side.
“There wouldn’t be any chance of them finding out if you hadn’t followed me here,” said Persephone. “I can give you a little Lethe water and make you forget the whole thing.”
“Or you can let me ride with you to the entrance of the Elysian Fields and see my son,” said Calliope, “and I can forget the whole thing on my own.”
Once on deck, I had a better look at Adonis. Sleeping in Persephone’s arms, he looked so pure, so perfect. My mind couldn’t reconcile this beatific creature with the young man who’d cheated and manipulated Apollo since the moment he came to Olympus.
“Hades and I don’t negotiate with blackmailers,” said Persephone.
“Don’t think of it as blackmail,” said Calliope. “Think of it as an old friend asking for a favor and offering you one in return.”
“Or I could think of it as blackmail,” said Persephone. “Now, shut up before you wake my baby.”
Calliope had succeeded in distracting both Persephone and me from Aphrodite. Aphrodite had climbed the opposite side of the barge about the same time I had, waiting for the right moment. She saw it and took it.
Aphrodite leaped over the rail of the barge, dashed to Persephone, grabbed Adonis out of her arms, and woke him with a wild, wet kiss. Persephone tried to pull him away, but it was too late.
“I remember you!” Adonis cried.
Aphrodite kissed him again. “I remember you, too.”
“Of course you remember him, you idiot, you’re not dead!” Persephone hissed.
“I remember us,” Adonis ignored Persephone. “All three of us. We were all created together. Do you remember the other one?”
“I do,” said Aphrodite, “The third one. But I’m almost sure all three of us were female. Does that sound right to you?”
“Yes, we were,” said Adonis. “At least, I was.”
“What in Tartarus are you two talking about?” Persephone demanded.
“Yes!” said Adonis. “It was in Tartarus! Are you the third one?”
“I’m your mother!”
“Oh,” Adonis put his hand to his face. “I’m sorry, but you’re not. Someone else created me. I have no idea who you are.”
“Seriously?” said Persephone. “You remember the mortal whore who gave birth to you, but you don’t remember me, the one who took you in and raised you?”
“No, you don’t understand,” said Adonis. “I’m sure you’re a very nice lady. But you’re talking about this incarnation. I don’t quite remember him yet.”
“Look what you’ve done to him!” Persephone shouted. “The dead can’t handle the memories of their earthly lives. You’ve driven him mad.”
“I made him remember,” said Aphrodite. “The third one,” she said to herself. “Trite. She needs to remember, too. Oh, Fates! What have I done?”
And then it all started to make sense.
Amphitrite, as you may remember, is Poseidon’s wife and consort, Queen of the Ocean Realm. She hadn’t been the least bit interested in Poseidon when they’d first met, but Poseidon became obsessed with making her his queen the moment he first laid eyes on her. He pursued her until she consented to marry him, which she may or may not have done under the influence of a love spell from Aphrodite.
Amphitrite went on to bear Poseidon’s son, Triton, and adopt Poseidon’s daughter by Aphrodite, Rhoda. Rhoda is married to Helios and lives with him on Olympus. Triton lives at his father’s ocean court and does most of the work of running the kingdom. I lived with Triton for awhile around the time Aglaea was born. That’s all water under the bridge now, no pun intended. Okay, maybe just a little bit intended. Triton eventually married a terrific mermaid goddess named Galataeia. Last I checked, they had like, a million daughters together and they’re all doing great and happy and perfect and I’m still single and I haven’t gotten laid in decades and that’s not the point.
The point is, when I was living with Triton, I had a mermaid’s body. (Long story.) Hestia, a child of the Titans, had given it to me. Only a child of the Titans could change me back to my original form.
I eventually broke up with Triton (yeah, I dumped a hot mer-prince; whatever). Naturally, I asked Hestia to give back my bipedal body. She wouldn’t do it. But the morning after I’d decided to leave, I woke up with my earth legs, the same as ever. Hestia denied changing me back. So did Poseidon. None of the other children of the Titans had known about my transformation or my wish to be changed back to normal. So I never did figure out who granted that wish. I hadn’t even thought about it in ages.
Until Aphrodite said “The Third One”.
In their captivity, the Titans had created three more children.
“What were our names?” Aphrodite was saying. “Do you remember?”
“I don’t,” said Adonis. “I just remember our forms.”
“Don’t speak of them!” Aphrodite stopped him. “Why did the Titans send us? Why all three of us at different times? Why one to each kingdom?”
“I don’t remember,” said Adonis. “Did we ever know?”
“Can someone give me an idea of what’s going on?” Persephone demanded.
“The Titans could,” said Aphrodite. “That much I remember. It was Gaia, wasn’t it?”
“It was kind of all of them, I think,” said Adonis.
“What was Gaia?” asked Persephone. “Don’t tell me you’ve slept with her, too.”
“That’s stupid. You can’t sleep with a Titan; they’re non-corporeal,” said Aphrodite. “When Zeus hit the Titans with his final barrage of lightning…oh, how do I explain this…some of their life force, I don’t know, bled? Leaked? Gaia had just enough strength and just enough time to gather it into herself before Hades bound them.”
“Gaia had the most creative power,” Calliope reasoned.
“She formed us in captivity,” said Adonis. “Three of us. They called us the Daughters of the Titans’ Fury.”
“That’s not possible,” said Persephone, though the concern in her expression implied that she thought it might be. “The Titans’ powers are blocked.”
“You know that’s not entirely true,” Adonis said to her. “I am starting to remember you again, you and Hades. I remember sneaking into the secret places in your palace. I flirted with the guards and got into the hall of records. The Titans aren’t even in the heart of Tartarus any more, are they? If you really believe their powers are completely blocked, why did you move them?”
“Where did you move them?” asked Calliope. “I can’t think of any place on earth that’s more secure than the heart of Tartarus. In fact, Hades originally built Tartarus as a prison for the Titans.”
“You’ve all gone insane!” Persephone concluded.
“They’re on a star,” said Adonis. “A specially-constructed star, surrounded by a series of rings that they can never cross, each ring stronger than the last.”
“Wouldn’t Urania know this?” asked Calliope.
“She’d know when the star first appeared, but there’s no reason she’d know why it did,” said Adonis.
“Mom,” Calliope called down from the barge, “was this Orpheus’ secret? Did he find out about this, too? About the star prison, and the three Furies?”
“Daughters of the Titans’ Fury,” Aphrodite and Adonis corrected her in unison.
“‘Furies’ sounds better,” said Calliope. “Especially since they turned one of you into a son.”
“Calliope, my darling, I’m afraid you already know more than you should,” Mom said gravely.
Hades appeared on the barge next to Persephone. Six guards were with him. Mom joined him on the barge. She clapped her hands together. When she opened them, a crystal vial was in her right hand. She offered it to Calliope. “Drink this, please,” she said. Her tone was calm and inviting, but her eyes were ominous and urgent.
“Is that a Lethe potion?” asked Calliope. “I’m not going to drink it. I won’t forget this.”
“Honey, you have no idea how sorry I am,” said Mom, “but your choices are to drink this yourself or to have it poured down your throat while the guards restrain you.”
Calliope held her hand out for the vial. “I’d ask if you’ve done this to me before,” she glowered, “but I won’t remember the answer anyway.”
“Drink it all, please,” said Mom. Calliope took the vial and drank all of its contents. She closed her eyes and collapsed. Mom caught her before she could fall to the deck. Floating off the barge, she carried Calliope’s sleeping body to the river bank.
Hades picked up the vial, which Calliope had dropped on the deck. The vial had refilled itself. “Here,” he unceremoniously offered it to Aphrodite. Aphrodite tensed herself to teleport. In half the time it takes to blink, two guards caught her, one on each arm. She was stuck. The guards’ armor blocked teleportation.
“No!” Aphrodite screamed as she struggled and kicked. “I don’t want to forget!” Adonis lunged for her, but two more guards caught him and held him back. For once in her life, Aphrodite was adamantly keeping her mouth shut. Persephone pried it open despite her struggles. Hades poured the potion into her mouth. Aphrodite coughed and gagged, trying desperately not to let it down her throat.
Hades held her mouth closed and tilted her chin up while Persephone stroked her throat. “Come on, just swallow,” Persephone coaxed. “You do it all the time.”
Finally, Aphrodite collapsed. The guards that held her carried her to the bank by Mom and Calliope.
“How much will she remember?” asked Adonis. “Will she remember this summer?”
“Yes,” said Hades. “She’ll remember everything up to your death. When she wakes up in her own bed, Hermes will tell her that she fainted at the scene, and that he was summoned to fly her home. The last part will be true.”
“What happens to me now?” asked Adonis.
“The same thing that happens to all demigods when they die,” said Hades. “You drink straight Lethe water, you forget everything from your old life, and you wake up in a new life.”
“But I’m not a normal demigod,” said Adonis. “The Titans must have incarnated me for a reason.”
“Kid,” Hades put a hand on the boy’s shoulder, “I created the Titans’ prison. Everyone thinks fear of Zeus’ lightning bolts is what’s keeping them back, because Zeus is a big effin’ self-promotion whore. But it’s not the bolts. it’s my prison. Keeping them in there is the biggest headache of my job. No one else in the Pantheon could handle it. If I were ever dethroned, the Titans might actually have a shot of getting out of there. And after the reign he’s had, the others won’t rally around Zeus like they did last time. Especially not Hera. He never could’ve beaten them without her, and we all knew it.”
“I think that’s the most you’ve ever said to me at one time,” said Adonis.
“Well, I want you to get it into your skull that the Titans probably did incarnate you for a purpose, and whatever it is, it can’t mean anything good for me, or for your mom.”
“You’re asking me to accept death so I won’t destroy you,” Adonis surmised. “Like you destroyed your own father, the Ruler of the Titans.”
“Cronus isn’t my father,” said Hades. “Not the way I’ve been a father to you. He was just the guy who made me. But, yeah, pretty much.”
“I would never do anything to hurt you or Persephone,” Adonis protested. “I know I’ve been a lot of trouble for you, but I also know that you loved me. Who knows what would’ve become of me if you two hadn’t adopted me. I’ll always be in your debt for that.”
“Seph, it’s your call,” said Hades.
Persephone hugged Adonis as well and as long as she could with the guards still holding him. She kissed him on both cheeks. “I’m so sorry, baby,” she said in quiet, tearless resolve. “But everything your dad said is true. We can’t risk it. So, please, if you love us, drink the water and retire to the Elysian Fields. You’ll be happy there. There are so many men and women, demigods and mortals, who never knew love on earth. And now they’re in Paradise, waiting for someone like you. Please. Do this for your mother.”
Adonis lowered his head. “Alright,” he accepted. “Give it to me, and I’ll drink it.”
A second vial, a silver one, appeared in Hades’ hand. As Adonis peacefully took it and drank from it, an image suddenly flashed into my mind. It was of another vial, made of crystal like the first. The words Drink when you’re alone were etched on it. It was in a trunk surrounded by dozens of other crystalline vials. I took a chance and attempted to summon the vial with the etching. I felt it appear in my hand, though of course I couldn’t see it.
The barge moved forward again. The guards left. Persephone stayed and held Adonis’ hand, though he clearly had no idea who she was or why she was there. Hades stayed, too, and held Persephone. If any of them had an inkling of my presence, they didn’t say so.
We approached the gates to the Realm of the Dead. I knew from much childhood experience that an invisible barrier would force me back if I tried to stay on past the border. So I crept to Adonis’ free hand and closed it around the vial I held. Persephone’s face was buried in Hades’ black velvet robe, and Hades was focusing on his wife, so neither of them saw Adonis sneak a look at the vial. He quickly closed his hand around it. I floated from the barge to the river bank.
“To the Elysian Fields,” I heard Hades order Charon.
“Your Majesties,” Adonis said, “I remember nothing of my earthly life. Which of the gods did I please enough to deserve an eternity in Paradise?”
“I think you managed to displease all of them,” said Persephone. “But we loved you anyway.”